I had high hopes for this movie. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 81% after all. I really should’ve known better. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, here’s the plot, as boiled down by moi (spoiler alert!):
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera): Knives Chau. She’s CHINESE.
Bandmate (white guy): That’s AWESOME.
Scott Pilgrim: Knives Chau. She’s CHINESE.
Scott Pilgrim’s Sister: You’re dating a seventeen year-old CHINESE SCHOOLGIRL? You’re RIDICULOUS!
While Scott Pilgrim is fighting Ramona Flowers’ first ex-boyfriend, Matthew Patel
Ramona Flowers, on why she dated Matthew Patel: He was the only NON-WHITE, non-jock there.
Scott Pilgrim: (to Knives Chau) Are you even allowed to date outside your race?
Knives Chau gets punched in the face by a vegan blonde guy.
Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman): (to Knives Chau) Hey, Kung Pao Chicken!
Knives Chau kicks Jason Schwartzman in the balls.
Scott Pilgrim ends up with Ramona Flowers.
Annnnd, THAT, my friend, is the movie in the nutshell. Several times throughout the film, I wanted to get up and shout “Asians are not just ‘cool ideas!’” Except I didn’t. I actually got in trouble with the staff at Alamo Drafthouse for angrily texting during the movie. Honestly, I could’ve done without the first half hour of the film. Why the need to repeat the fact that Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) is Chinese? Like it’s something sensational to gawk at. (Do you always introduce your girlfriends by calling out their races? If so, you just might be a fetishist.) Why the need to make her into some ridiculous Anime-like, fainting-at-a-rock-show, creepy stalker chick? WHY?
Also, the fact that Ramona Flowers seemed to only be attracted to Matthew Patel because he was “non-white,” made my skin crawl. She’s equally as guilty as Scott Pilgrim of being in love with an idea of a cool Asian. Later, Ramona’s other ex-boyfriends, the “awesome” Katayagi Twins (read: Japanese), show up for battle of the bands and are so awesome that they’re the only ones of her exes that don’t actually have any lines in the film. All they do this stand there, look cool, and summon twin dragons to fight for them. Again, cue the mysterious “non-white” power of the Asian characters.
Also, when the entire audience (minus you and your companion) is laughing at the “Kung Pao Chicken” line, it’s A LITTLE BIT MORE THAN AWKWARD. Let’s play the “How Many Racists in the Audience” game, shall we?
The only satisfaction I got when watching this film was when Ellen Wong got to sword fight Ramona Flowers and kick Jason Schwartzman squarely in the balls. Granted, I had to endure an hour and a half+ of torture before that sweet catharsis.
The only real lesson this movie teaches anyone is that Asian girls like Ellen Wong “don’t get” hipster culture–or how to steal the heart of a nerdy white boy–which belongs primarily to white people.
No, I don’t think this film is overtly racist. But, I do think it fetishizes Asian characters to a certain degree, based on the lines listed above and the obvious gratuitous mentioning of Knives Chau’s race. If they had removed all of the lines alluding to the fact that Knives is Chinese, I probably would have enjoyed this movie quite a bit more than I did.
Ellen Wong: You are hot. I hope to see you in another film with an infinitely better role for you.
Popularity: 3% [?]